In the news business, names from the past sometimes pop up in seemingly unlikely places. The name today is that of James P. Gleason, the first elected Montgomery County executive (1971-79) and previously a Republican member of the Montgomery County Council and Metro board chairman.

Going a bit afar from the problems of Wheaton and Poolesville, Gleason has been named hearing chairman in the controversial question of maintaining the license of the Indian Point nuclear power plant on the Hudson River downstream from West Point.

The former hearing chairman in the case was Louis J. Carter, who resigned Sept. 2, asserting that the hearing was being stacked with supporters of the plant. The issue is not a minor one; Carter's resignation made page one of The New York Times.

The name of Gleason was drawn by the Nuclear Regulatory Commission from a panel of the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board, on which he serves.

The hearing is being held to determine whether the people around Indian Point face a greater risk than the people living near other nuclear plants.

Since leaving office as county executive, Gleason has avoided the public eye. He has been a consultant at the University of the District of Columbia and at Harvard University's John F. Kennedy School of Government. He showed up at the opening of Joseph McGrath's successful campaign for the GOP nomination for county executive this year and gave McGrath a widely circulated favorable quotation that was short of an endorsement.